Wanderlust: New Delhi markets

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Despite New Delhi’s oppressive heat, one midsummer evening I snuck out between overnights at The Lodhi (thelodhi.com) and The Leela Palace (theleela.com) – two of the capital city’s most luxurious hotels, both air conditioned and brimming with comforts – to amble outdoors along the frenetic Mehar Chand Market. Formerly the poor relation to the nearby Khan Market (home to some of the Subcontinent’s most expensive retail space), artisanal merchants are popping up among the long-established tailors, barbers and vegetable vendors.

Word of this emerging shopping destination first reached me via a vaguely tribal, utterly stylish silver and leather choker worn by an elegant stranger in The Lodhi’s sunlit breakfast room. Manners held me back from grasping at the lady’s décolletage and for this I was rewarded with the designer’s name, En Inde (eninde.com). Soon enough, I stood in their second storey showroom at Mehar Chand, a raw loft space filled with indigenously inspired adornments for body and home. The love child of two overseas Indian women, reverence for Mother India is displayed in feather and bead festooned statement pieces that hang alongside a selection of textural pottery from eastern India’s distant Nagaland province and buttery soft leather bags.

In spite of the rising humidity, I continued on foot to Shades of India (shadesofindia.com) where I immediately started mentally redecorating my home. A pioneer of cross-cultural product launches long before collaborations achieved their current cache, this Indian design house regularly unites contemporary designers and traditional Indian artisans to explore colour and texture. Eschewing tired elephant clichés, these tactile home furnishings and timelessly stylish accessories reference India but oh-so subtly. Co-owner Mandeep Nagi designs a capsule clothing line that tends towards Nehru collars atop Mughal-inspired frocks. Nearly next door, Manan Design (manandesign.com) proffers a more muted palette of understated updates to old school Indian kaftans, jackets, skirts and saris in a spectrum of sizes. Equally lust-inducing are this indigenous design duo’s fresh takes on Indian bling, bedding and kids’ items. 

The lacquered steamer trunks at Nappa Dori (nappadori.com) may look too pristine for my own 21st century journeys, but other nostalgia-infused travel items from leather goods designer Gautam Sinha would increase my on-the-road style instantly. I lingered over an ikat-clad satchel, then tackled the all-consuming decision of choosing whether to purchase a canvas overnighter emblazoned with vintage photographs of New Delhi’s Jama Mashid mosque or a handbag as tongue-in-cheek homage to Goan fishermen. 

It was well worth braving the swelter to see what’s newest in New Delhi but I also like Mehar Chand’s strategic location, a mere three minutes by air conditioned car to another Raj-era time warp, Lodhi Colony Market, where Ploof (13 Lodhi Colony Market) serves seafood fresh from Goa and Cochin. I refueled with the grilled sea bass garnished with charred peppers and skipped dessert to treat myself instead to the light-as-air, yet studiously constructed, frocks at Rajesh Pratap Singh (9 Lodhi Colony Market) who still reigns as my absolute favorite Indian designer.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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